“Project Adhikaar aspires for a vision in which the marginalised women are trained, sustainably employed and are given an opportunity to independently earn in the unconventional field of e-rickshaw driving,” goes the description of the project on the website.
Started in June 2015, this initiative by students of Enactus DCAC (Delhi College of Arts and Commerce) aims to break the barriers of gender boundaries by enabling women to take up a profession largely dominated by men, and at the same time tackle the critical issue of environmental pollution by providing a non-polluting alternative for commute.
Sharing the idea behind the project’s conceptualisation, Hitesh Bathla, student body president of Enactus DCAC, says that it was the acute rise in women’s harassment cases, especially in the transportation sector around Delhi that led them to think of such a project.
In a survey conducted by the team, it was found that 67% of sexual harassment cases take place in the transportation sector.
Citing an example, he says that it was the Uber rape case that brought their attention towards this issue. “Women today are venturing into all fields once dominated by males. So why not driving? It is a relatively untapped field. Also, there are lack of employment opportunities for these underprivileged women and they are generally shackled by house constraints,” he says.
So Project Adhikaar aims to be the solution by being a three-way impact model wherein a woman feels more secure with a woman driver, the income generation makes her self-dependent and helps her strengthen her base in the societal structure. “Also, since e-rickshaws are eco-friendly they don’t emit carbon pollution,” he says.
The project, which works with women around east Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area, trains them in self-defence, communication and personality development, customer handling, financial literacy, healthcare, first aid usage, and basic geographical knowledge.
“Not only this, they are also imparted basic traffic rules for better understanding of roads. The complete training model that we provide them makes them eligible to earn approximately Rs. 25,000 a month,” says Shweta Singh, student vice president.
The women, says the student group, are shortlisted only on the basis of their willingness to earn an income for their household.
These women are also supported in acquiring of an e-rickshaw. “From proper documentation, making the women eligible for a loan, classifying their nominees to actually getting them an e-rickshaw is ensured by our team. But our work doesn’t end there. Even after the e-rickshaw is given to the community we remain in touch with them so that in this new venture of theirs they don’t feel alone,” says Saurabh Kukreja, student vice president.
At present, the students are training a batch of 100 women, and already have 20 women on the road.
Sharing her experiences, Nasreen says that she will use the earned income for her daughter’s higher education so that she too can learn and help to empower others like them. “Also so that she won’t have to lead a life like we do,” she says.
However on their path to success, the team also encountered a few challenges. One, the members say, was to break the taboo that women are bad drivers – a notion held by even the educated masses to some extent.
“Secondly, the families were not open to the idea of the women working, especially going out of the house and driving an e-rickshaw. However by our effective mobilization techniques that involves door-to-door mobilization has also led to an indirect impact of liberating households and changing mindsets,” says Shweta.
Summing it all up, Haseen Jahan says, “I had never thought that I would become a professional e-rickshaw driver and would be able to contribute towards the improvement of my family’s standard of living.”
To know more about their project, visit their website here.